The Baltimore Ravens announced jersey numbers for their rookie class on May 3, as well as a few veteran number chances, seeming to confirm the departure of several veterans, including two members of the 2012 squad that won Super Bowl XLVII.
Smith made 90 starts as a Raven and played a key role in Baltimore’s 2012 Super Bowl run, but his career-long struggle to stay healthy has come to a head in recent years. He’s only made 12 starts over the past three seasons, and Williams’ new number indicates that the Ravens are unlikely to re-sign him from the free agent pool.
Cornerback Duane Starks wore also 22 during his time in Baltimore, which included the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV victory in 2001, so Williams will look to continue the legacy of successful defensive backs wearing 22 in Baltimore.
Second-round pick David Ojabo will have 90 on his jersey, which Pernell McPhee wore during both of his stints in Baltimore. McPhee won Super Bowl XLVII with Smith and spent time with the Chicago Bears and the Washington Commanders before returning to Baltimore in 2019. But injuries have blunted McPhee’s impact in Baltimore, resulting in the lowest-graded season of his career last year, per Pro Football Focus. With limited cap space, the Ravens appear ready to re-sign Justin Houston instead of McPhee.
Ojabo may not have had the chance to wear 90 if Za’Darius Smith had opted to sign with the Ravens in March instead of seeking a better deal from the Minnesota Vikings. Smith wore 90 for the Ravens from 2015 to 2018, as did defensive lineman Trevor Pryce from 2006 to 2010.
Other Free Agent Veterans’ Numbers Taken
Third-rounder Travis Jones has selected 98 for his jersey, taking the number worn by defensive tackle Brandon Williams since the Ravens drafted him in 2013. The 336-pound Williams had been one of the league’s run-stuffers for his whole career, but took a significant step back in 2021 according to PFF. The Ravens don’t need another nose tackle after drafting Jones and signing Michael Pierce, not to mention the several young defensive lineman on Baltimore’s roster.
Wide receiver James Proche switched from 11 to 3, which was worn by Robert Griffin III during his time as a Raven and linebacker L.J. Fort before he tore his ACL in the 2021 preseason.
Fort may not return to the Ravens; Josh Bynes returned for his third stint in Baltimore, bringing up Patrick Queen’s play in the process and recently extended his stay with another one-year deal. Though Chris Board left for the Detroit Lions, the Ravens’ class of undrafted free agent linebackers indicates they’re trying to get younger at the position and move on from the 32-year-old Fort.
Smith, McPhee, Williams and Fort are all unrestricted free agents, so they could certainly return to the Ravens this year, likely on one-year veteran minimum contracts. But with other players claiming their longtime numbers in Baltimore, it seems like the Ravens have moved on from these longtime veterans.